Ephesus is the most famous, the most complete, and, on the downside, probably the most crowded ancient site in Turkey. Nevertheless, it really is a ‘must see’ – if not on your first visit to Turkey, then certainly at some point.
The organised trips (and, for that matter, the admission ticket) also cover the house of the Virgin Mary. Though this is obviously of interest for religious reasons, it is not otherwise the most interesting of buildings – and probably has somewhat tenuous religious links anyway.
Ephesus itself though is simply stunning. The tour can be done either on your own, or you can hire a guide – these are extremely good, and cost around £30. A guide will know all the history, and will be able to explain what things are far better than you can work out yourself (such as the Nike ‘tick’ on the status of the Goddess Nike’). They will also usually be fairly flexible over timings, route, etc.
Whichever way you visit, it is normal to start at one end, and walk through to the other, so park in the car park at either end, there are many taxis that exist solely to shuttle people from one car park to the other. It does not really matter which way round you do this, though there is perhaps something nice about collapsing at the end in a café and then getting straight into your car, rather than having to get a taxi back.
Although you can get cold drinks and ice cream half way round, you may find it easier to take your own drinks – it is a long dusty walk, with little shade, and you can easily spend a couple of hours walking around, and certainly no less than 1 hour.
The walk through Ephesus feels pretty much like walking down a modern day high street – there are shops along either side, interspersed with houses and the major buildings – the Temple of Hadrian, the stunning library of Celsus which you aim towards for most of the first part of the walk, the toilets (always a favourite with the kids!), the agora, and finally the huge theatre. Like many of the Turkish sites, it is very easy to imagine an ancient lifestyle in such a well-preserved setting.
Getting There by Car
From Akyaka, take the Mugla road, and then at the main Mugla traffic lights take the E330 towards Aydin and Izmir. Continue following Aydin / Izmir, the road becomes the E550. At Aydin, take the E87 towards Izmir, and then follow the signs to Selcuk and then Ephesus (often signposted Efes – yes, just like the beer!). Approximately 200 kms, allow 2.5 to 3 hours by car.